Oliver Stone has never been one to shy away from war or politics, with current events taking place it is always worth reiterating the meaningful.
I recently posted Ukraine on fire by Oliver Stone, I thought I would follow that up with a little look into the life and background of one of the film industries’ most colourful characters.
It’s said Stone encapsulates many characters including, Veteran, Agitator, Provocateur, Bully, Conspiracy nut, Patriot, just some of the labels used over the years to describe Oliver Stone. (Subtle isn’t one of them.) He has spent his filmmaking career charting the currents that propelled America in the post-war era: war, greed, sensationalism, sex, drugs, and rock & roll.
What is true is that Stone had served in the US Army and deployed to Vietnam from 1967 to 1968. His wartime experiences would shape some of his later films and of course his politics.
Stone enlisted in the US army in April 1967. He requested combat duty and that’s exactly what he got. He arrived in South Vietnam on Sept. 16, 1967, assigned to 2nd Platoon, Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Infantry, stationed near the Cambodian border.
Of his decision to join the military, he says, “I thought war was it; it was the most difficult thing a young man could go through… It was a rite of passage. And I knew it would be the only war of my generation, so I said, ‘I’ve gotta get over there fast, because it’s going to be over.’ There was also a heavy streak of rebelliousness in the face of my father, and I think I was trying to prove to him that I was a man, not a boy.”
Stone’s Vietnam experience can be seen in three films he wrote and directed: “Platoon” (1986), “Born on the Fourth of July” (1989), and “Heaven and Earth” (1993).
“Platoon” was always Stone’s story and he worked 10 years to get it on screen, said retired Marine Capt. Dale Dye, who played Army Capt. Harris.
Stone was wounded twice in combat and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for valour.
Stone was honourably discharged in November 1968, the same month he arrived stateside from Vietnam.
Emotionally scarred by his experiences in Vietnam, Stone returned to the States “very mixed up, very paranoid and very alienated,” in his words. Fortunately, the GI Bill helped him enrol in New York University, where he studied under master filmmaker Martin Scorcese and gained a new focus in life.
He broke into Hollywood as a screenwriter, notable, with his Oscar-winning screenplay for “Midnight Express” (1978). A string of other screenplays he wrote followed, including “Conan the Barbarian” (1982), “Scarface” (1983), and “Year of the Dragon”.
The acclaimed screenwriter and director had always been hard to ignore his later works including “Wall Street”, “The Doors”, “JFK,” and “Nixon”, he also won three Oscars for “Midnight Express”, “Born on the Fourth of July” and “Platoon”.
It’s these experience that gives Stone his unique worldview.
Stones has taken his own experiences in life to question the system and to ask the awkward questions of war.
During a speech at the Gotham Independent Film Awards, the “Snowden” director made a point to reference national security under the Trump administration. “The surveillance state, ‘1984,’ cyber warfare and has been outspoken on the US involvement in Ukraine.
In 2017 during the Writers Guild Awards Oliver Stone, didn’t fail to deliver, while on stage to accept the Laurel Award, he gave a bipartisan critique of America in an impassioned message to young filmmakers and writers.
Thanked mentors Robert Bolt and Ernest Lehman as well as WMA agent Ron Mardigian. He reminded that when he told Billy Wilder about his “Nixon” running time of 3 hours 10 minutes, Wilder told him, “You’re never going to make a dime.”
“He was right,” said Stone. “Sometimes there are other reasons to make a picture.” Stone used the occasion to remind the room that U.S. wars were “not started by one leader but a system… under the guise that these are just wars.” He continued: “The strengths I had as a director grew from the writing — that cut through the materialism around us.”
Stone reminded his fellow writers and filmmakers that “you can be critical of your government and your society.” he expressed the necessity to challenge the status quo, to not be subservient, but to challenge the very system, especially when it comes to war.
In his words…
It’s a system under the guise that these are just Wars.
“It’d be remiss of me not to remind you, especially you younger writers, that you can be critical of your government and your society. You don’t have to fit in. It’s fashionable now to take shots at Republicans and Trump and avoid the Obamas and Clintons. But remember this: In the 13 wars we’ve started over the last 30 years and the $14 trillion we’ve spent, and the hundreds of thousands of lives that have perished from this earth, remember that it wasn’t one leader but a system, both Republican and Democrat.
And call it what you will, military industrial, security, money, media, complex.
It’s a system that has been perpetuated under the guise that these are just wars justifiable in the name of our flag that flies so proudly over our lives.
Our country has become more prosperous for many but in the name of that wealth, we cannot justify our system as a center for the world’s values. But we continue to create such war and chaos in the world.
No need to go through the victims, but we know we’ve intervened in more than 100 countries with invasion, regime change, economic chaos. Or hired war, soft power, whatever you want to call it,. It’s war of some kind. In the end, it’s become a system leading to the death of this planet and the extinction of us all.
I’ve fought these people who practice war for most of my life. It’s a tiring game. And mostly you’ll get your a– kicked. With all the criticism and insults you’ll receive, and the flattery too, it’s important to remember, if you believe in what you’re saying and you can stay the course, you can make a difference.”
I urge you to find a way to remain alone with yourself, listen to your silences, not always in a writer’s room. Try to find not what the crowd wants so you can be successful, but try instead to find the true inner meaning of your life here on earth, and never give up on your heart in your struggle for peace, decency, and telling the truth.” -Oliver Stone.
Of course, Ukraine is the latest proxy war being waged by the US and again Oliver Stone has not been shy about explaining how this 8 years civil war has escalated under the hegemony of the US.
Ukraine on fire.
This film by award-winning Oliver Stone ‘Ukraine on fire’ shows how the 2014’s Maidan Massacre triggered a bloody uprising that ousted president Viktor Yanukovych and painted Russia as the perpetrator by Western media. But was it? “Ukraine on Fire” by Igor Lopatonok provides a historical perspective for the deep divisions in the region which lead to the 2004 Orange Revolution, 2014 uprisings, and the violent overthrow of democratically elected Yanukovych.
Covered by Western media as a people’s revolution, it was in fact a coup d’état scripted and staged by nationalist groups and the U.S. State Department. Investigative journalist Robert Parry reveals how U.S.-funded political NGOs and media companies have emerged since the 80s replacing the CIA in promoting America’s geopolitical agenda abroad.
“It’s a system that has been perpetuated under the guise that these are just wars justifiable in the name of our flag that flies so proudly over our lives”. -Oliver Stone.